Four years ago, when President Muhammadu Buhari squared up against then President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the Presidency, some Nigerians highlighted his flaws. At that time, the democracy credentials of Buhari were suspect. There were fears that, having been a military Head of State, with a tendency for intolerance, Buhari would not respect the tenets of democracy. There were also issues about Buhari’s school certificate, the state of his health as well as his capacity to be a good and functional president, among others.
Those who stood behind President Buhari, whose allegiance no reason could change, in trying to promote his democracy disposition, said he had repented and was actually a latter-day democrat. On the certificate controversy, they not only dismissed it but also went to the ridiculous level of declaring that even if Buhari presented a birth certificate or electricity bill, it was okay and enough qualification to contest the post of president of Nigeria. The talk about President Buhari’s health at that time was dismissed as a non-issue, with his staunch followers saying those who raised the matter were only wishing Buhari dead. On his capacity, they said he had all it took to be president and he was the governance “messiah” Nigeria. They even rubbed it in by declaring that Nigeria needed Buhari more than he needed the country.
Today, the chickens have come home to roost. It is no longer speculation or anticipation. The facts of the matter are staring everybody in the face. From May 29, 2015, to now, the scorecard of President Buhari is public. All the issues raised about him have manifested. Everybody has seen the question mark on his democracy beliefs. The health of the president has become a source of concern, to the extent that President Buhari once stayed abroad for treatment for more than 100 days at a time. The president’s capacity has been unveiled and Nigerians have seen lack of skill, cluelessness, pretension and ethnocentrism.
Funny enough, top officials of the Buhari administration are still behaving in such a way to suggest that the executive arm of the government is the only good, upright and transparent arm among the three components of government. The Buhari government has come against the legislature. It has descended on the judiciary. It is behaving in a manner to suggest that the other arms of government – the legislature and the judiciary – are not only corrupt but also not good. When one man claims to know more about democracy as well as pretend to be the only good and clean person in a country of 180 million, there is certainly a problem.
Indeed, the fears about President Buhari’s democracy tendencies as expressed in 2015 have proved to be founded, going by what Nigerians have seen so far. In a supposed democracy, the Buhari government has shown disrespect for the rule of law. President Buhari himself was once so daring to say, on national television, he would not obey court orders on bail, as, according to him, those “accused” would run away if released on bail. To him, the accused is guilty until proven innocent.
Under the Buhari government, the obedience to court orders is selective, according to how it suits the government. Former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki, who is on trial over arms funds, for instance, is still in detention despite several court bails. The Buhari government bluntly refused to let him breath the air of freedom, while his case continues. Leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, was granted bail. He is still being held in custody. There are other cases where the Buhari government has refused to heed court pronouncements. When court orders are not obeyed and when the rule of law is not respected, the country is, at best, a quasi-autocracy.
Related to the judiciary, the Buhari government has attempted to demonise the judiciary. Under this government, judges have been arrested and the toga of corruption placed on them. The judges have been put on trial, with many of them already found guilty in the media. In the world of Buhari, personnel of other arms of government are considered bad, while those in the executive are presented as being good. This is why the government broke a record in investigation and prosecution when it sealed the fate of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, in a matter of days, from the time a petition against him was submitted and when a case was instituted against him at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). The CJN has also been suspended without due process of allowing the National Judicial Council (NJC) to act first being followed.
The Onnoghen case says much about the anti-graft fight of the Buhari government. The CJN is already on trial for alleged non-compliance with the Code of Conduct requirement on declaration of assets, while many people in the executive and others close to government, who have petitions against them over alleged corrupt practices, are going about their business without any investigation or trial. This is the kind of double standard that pervades the government when a level playing field for all, irrespective of political affiliation, creed and tribe, is required. It is the Buhari brand of fight against corruption, a selective process whereby others are perceived to be bad, while those who are favourites of government have no problem.
The pretension of the government and its officials is legendry. We have a set a people in government who pretend to be good, while their activities leave much to be desired. A few days ago, President Buhari admitted that there was still corruption in government agencies, while revealing that government officials still divert government funds. It was good to hear this. However, nobody will lose sight of the fact that the impression the APC has always given is that corruption is alien under its reign, but the exclusive preserve of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Now government agency officials, in a “clean” Buhari government are still diverting funds. What happens to the pretences?
As the electioneering is going on, President Buhari is everywhere. Money is being spent on his campaign. We are meant to believe that Buhari is not spending excessively on it and does not want other political parties to spend, with government tracking money movement. However, other people are spending money on his behalf. In 2015, President Buhari flew in private chartered jets for campaigns. He did not pay from his pocket. Others picked the bills but he never asked for the sources of the money, just as he is not asking for the source of money being spent today for his campaign on his behalf. If the money so spent is from corrupt practices, doesn’t it matter? Someone against corruption who is benefitting from proceeds of corrupt is equally guilty. A man who does not eat meat should not use his teeth to divide meat for others.
I am not worried about what the Buhari government has done wrongly or failed to do in its close to four years in office. What I am worried about is what it would do in future. Onnoghen has been suspended and is being tried. The Buahri supporters are applauding. Dasuki and El-Zakzaky are in detention despite court bails. They are clapping. The government is intimidating and hounding judges. They say it is all right. President Buhari refused to attend a presidential debate. They say he did well because he could not be discussing with nonentities. The president falters during a televised town hall meeting. They say he was excellent. President Buhari is making some gaffes in his campaign, even in presenting candidates. They say it was non-issue.
People say that insecurity, occasioned by Boko Haram activities, herdsmen and banditry, is rising. We are told there is no cause for alarm. There is apprehension about Executive Order 6, which gives the government power to confiscate anybody’s property on suspicion of corruption. They say it is the right thing to do. We say that there is a gradual descent to dictatorship in the country. They say government needs firmness to whip people in line. We talk about the penchant for appointing people from one part of the country, by Buhari and a particular church, by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, into top offices in majority of the government parastatals. They say it is not nepotism or church zealotry or fundamentalism. The signs of government failure are clear, with indications that it would worsen. They say there is progress.
On Saturday, February 16, 2019, Nigerians have a choice to make as to whether they will continue Buhariing Buhari, with all the flaws or should invoke their power to sack the government with their votes.